January 2, 2022
“Bosom Buddies” Rev. Chelsea Page

(John 1:1-5, 9-14, 18)

Good morning. Pastor Brent has talked to us about the mystery surrounding the identity of the Magi. While I would love to know more about who they actually were, it actually seems right for them to remain anonymous, because they stand in for all of us – people of all the nations, from outside of Jesus’s culture as we all are, drawn toward him to seek him. They seek him with methods that are familiar to us today; science and astronomy, experimentation and prayer. These mysterious travelers represent all those who experience the divine as being a far-off mystery that must be sought after. You have walked in their footsteps any time you have stood at the cusp of a new year and wondered what God’s will or guidance might be for you to follow in the coming year. What must you do and where must you go to find your destiny for 2022?

The gospel of John, however, gives us a very different method for approaching God. The revolution of Jesus is that God was not distant from him, not at all. John says that Jesus was so close to God’s own heart that he made God visible. The word for heart here is actually “bosom” or “breast,” giving us a strikingly maternal image of the Trinity. Jesus’s divine life proceeds from God’s divine life, like a baby who is snuggled up and nursing from a parent’s chest. Jesus is a manifestation of his parent’s life and love.

Can you feel the difference between a distant God, who requires you to read the stars and travel far to seek him, and a Holy One who holds you close to her heart, inviting you to simply rest and come home? What if everyone could enter this new year at peace, already feeling like we’ve arrived, knowing ourselves to be one of God’s dearest bosom buddies? I would love to feel this way. But I know from experience it’s not always easy to accept the kind of love that God shows us in Jesus. It’s an extreme kind of love. And then John takes it one step further.

John suggests that for Jesus, the parent-child relationship, in which the child is a connected but separate being, is surpassed by an even closer relationship. John says that Jesus existed with God from the beginning as God’s own wisdom, as God’s very self. This is not mere intimacy, but identification; the deepest kind of unity, as they are one. The beauty of this, is that because of Jesus, God is no longer mysterious but visible for all to see. What a gift for us who long to see the fingerprints of the holy in our lives.

But it does make it so much harsher that Jesus’s “own people” rejected him. By rejecting Jesus, they rejected God. Did you catch that? John the mystic seems to be insulting an entire religion, recasting members of Judaism as nonbelievers.

Now this a bit rich, because the Jews are the ones, unlike any of the cultures of the Magi, who discovered the Holy One of Israel. While it’s true that at the time of Jesus, many Jews did not believe him, it is equally true that ALL the people who did believe in him were Jewish. Mary, Peter, John, all the disciples, the people who listened to the Sermon on the Mount, the apostle Paul, the first converts – all Jewish.

So instead, what if, when we hear John condemn Jesus’s “own people” for not accepting Jesus, what if we could hear him talking about us? John says that not one person came into being except through Jesus; as God, can’t Christ claim all of us as his creatures? What creaturely ingratitude, for God to come to Earth, and for Earth to reject him. It’s much less interesting to think about how some Jews rejected Christ, and more striking to realize that many Christians reject him.

For it’s true, many who claim Christ do struggle to live up to his example of peace. It’s not just those other Christians. If we’re being honest, we sometimes fail to love others with the passion and justice that Jesus showed. We even fail to accept his revelation about how much we are loved – loved by God, loved just as we are. It’s hard to always feel that we are good enough to do the amazing things Jesus asks of us. But John says that “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of humanity, but of God.” Jesus shares the calling to become children of God. It feels like a challenge, but really it’s good news. For it’s not just an invitation, it’s an empowerment, even a recognition of who we were born to be. So what does it mean to be a child of God? How are we like Jesus, making God known and visible for all to see?

It may be easier than you realize. When my daughter was born with a birth defect that required surgery, while her health was still uncertain, my spouse and I kept marveling over and over how much it felt like she was “meant to be here.” It didn’t give us any guarantees about how long we would get to have her. But it gave us great comfort to know without a doubt that she was given to us as God’s gift, to feel in our bones that she was meant to be ours, no matter how her life turned out.

What I know from my daughter’s disability, is that our infinite value as human beings, our identity as children of God, derives from how God regards us – as God’s own precious child. It has nothing to do with how other people see us, or even how we see ourselves. For if Jesus was God’s original wisdom existing from the beginning of time, each one of us also has a deep history with God. God created you out of love. Rather than ability or accomplishment, love alone is what makes you a child of God. You are meant to be here.

So let’s walk into the new year thinking less about the gifts that we can bear like the Magi, and more about the gift that we are. The gift of our precious existence, which comes from God. From this love flows all the love we have to give to others. From this love comes our calling as church. In the words of our Unitarian Universalist siblings, “We recommit ourselves to the protection of everyone’s right to their own radiant humanity.” While Christmastide gives way to Epiphany, let us continue to shine with the light of the Christ child, who is reflected in each one of us. Amen.